“At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God…proving that Jesus is the Christ” Acts 9:20 & 22
The first place Paul went after receiving the Holy Spirit was to share the gospel with the Jewish people in the synagogues even though he knew it would provoke hostility. We don’t hear so much about opposition arising from Christians sharing the gospel with Jews today. Many Christians want to be supportive of Israel, and Israel seems happy to receive our support and friendship, but sharing the gospel of Jesus with them can still create friction. The U. S. State Department website reports that while Christian missionary work is not illegal in Israel, it is discouraged and sometimes interfered with by their government. It stirs up negative feelings with religious Jews elsewhere in the world as well. But God’s Word promises that “through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body and sharers together in the promise of Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 3:6). It says that there is no longer Jew or Gentile but one body in Christ (Galatians 3:28). If we believe God’s Word is true, then the body of Christ, His Church, is not complete if we are just friends or political allies with the Jewish people. Have we forgotten the Jewish root into which God grafted us (Romans 11:17), or ignored what His Word says about this relationship? How many churches today are searching God’s Word and seeking His will regarding our spiritual unity with the Jewish people?
Many theologians disagree over our responsibility and approach to this issue. But it is an important issue to consider because it was and is important to Jesus. We worship a Jewish Messiah whose family members and many of His early disciples were Jewish, and who taught openly to the Jews in the synagogues and temples (John 18:20-21). His words and actions show how important His people were to Him. Jesus said salvation was from the Jews (John 4:23), but it is for anyone who believed in Him (John 3:15). He said there would be one flock with one shepherd (John 10:16) because He came to destroy the barrier and dividing wall of hostility between Jew and Gentile (Ephesians 2:15-16). Jesus commanded Christians to be His witnesses to Jerusalem and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8), to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19). And the apostle Paul said he was “not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew and then to the Gentile” (Romans 1:16). So if Jesus wanted the Jews to hear His message and be saved, and Paul and the other apostles knew this was critical, why have many of us tip-toed around the Jewish people when it comes to the Great Commission? Have we been deterred because of opposition or are we ashamed of the gospel? Is there still a dividing line because we do we not have Jesus’ heart for the Jewish people or for His completed church?
Paul taught in Romans chapter 11, that God temporarily blinded all but a remnant of Jews so the Gentiles could be grafted in to the root of Abraham. When God’s completed number of Gentiles has been brought in, then God’s full number of Jewish people will return to Him humbly through the same gifts of His grace and mercy. As we wait on God’s timing, we are not to be ignorant about this mystery so that we don’t become conceited (Romans 11:25). We are to continue to show the Jewish people the same kindness that God showed us (Romans 11:22). Paul had great sorrow and unceasing anguish and wished he could give up his own salvation for their sake (Romans 9:2-3). He hoped that his ministry to the Gentiles would arouse the Jewish people to envy and bring them to salvation (Romans 11:14). His heart’s desire and prayer to God was for them to be saved (Romans 10:1). So even though God chose Paul to take the good news to the Gentiles, Paul never gave up on the hope of salvation through Christ for the Jewish people. Have we? When was the last time you prayed for Israel’s salvation? Paul said that the riches the Gentiles received from Israel’s unbelief will pale in comparison to the riches their fullness in salvation through Christ will bring (Romans 11:12). God’s plans will not be thwarted. Satan failed in his attempt to keep Jesus from coming through the Jewish people, and he will fail in trying to keep them from coming to Jesus. He knows his destruction is sure, but how great his efforts must be to try and delay the fullness of the Gentiles and the day when Israel is grafted back in and saved prior to Christ’s return (Luke 13:35). So whose side are we on if we ignore our Jewish brothers and sisters? Are we content with friendship at a distance, or do we truly desire their inclusion in the completed body of Christ?
Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for the depth of the riches of your wisdom and knowledge. Thank you for your grace and mercy and that because of Jesus and the cross, both Jew and Gentile can be saved. Thank you for your Word and choosing to reveal your will and plans so that we can obey. Give us an awakening to your Word for this specific time in history, give us wisdom in this area and reveal where we have wrong motives or methods. Forgive us where we have ignored our Jewish brothers and sisters, acted in arrogance or not shown them your kindness. Please give us your heart for them and your completed church, for it is in the fullness of both the Gentiles and the Jewish people that our greatest riches will be discovered. Lord we cry out like the psalmist that you would awaken your might, that you would shine your face upon Israel that they may be saved. Help us to show them your kindness and lovingly share your greatest gift, your gospel message. In the great and saving name of Jesus, the head of the Church. Amen!